Shin splints are a common complaint for those who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity, especially among those who participate in running sports. The term ‘shin splints’ is used to describe the pain along the inside or front edges of the shin. It’s usually caused by overstraining the muscles where they attach but can also be a consequence of poor foot/leg biomechanics (so be sure to see your Physiotherapist if you experience them regularly).
The repeated pounding and stress caused on the bones, muscles and joints of the lower leg prevents your body from being able to naturally repair and restore itself. Sometimes, the pain of shin splints can be so intense that you have to stop in your tracks! The pain associated with this results from the excessive amount of force on the shin bone and tissues all the way through to the muscles surrounding it.
If you find that you’re experiencing pain in your shin, the initial treatment is: REST, ICE and PROTECTION.
What to do if you have shin splints:
1) In the early stages of pain, your body needs some active rest from constant weight bearing. Additionally, ice is simple and extremely effective when used to reduce pain and swelling.
2) Protect your poor injured shin muscles while they heal and strengthen. Two words: foam roll. It is important to lengthen and relax the muscles with self-myofascial release, or a soft tissue massage, which you can do at home by using a foam roller or even a golf ball due to the size of your shin muscles. Roll out your Tibia Anterior and/or Posterior.
3) Reduce and manage your training! Physiotherapist Ben Eisenhuth at Sydney Sports Physio & Rehab in Baulkham Hills recommends, “Interval Training. Most runners will hate this. Increase your cadence, or length of stride, which in turn will decrease the amount of contact the foot has with the ground. Run quicker for shorter and then walk for longer.”
How to prevent shin splints:
• Purchase the right running shoe – Try finding a shoe that limits pronation and gives more arch support. The shoe you should get will depend on what surface you run on or which activity you’ll be performing. You shouldn’t just go for the latest, most trendy shoe.
• Always Follow the 10 percent rule – Don’t increase your weekly km’s by more than 10% and manage your program with efficiency. This rule is extremely important as a vast majority of running injuries are due to overuse.
• Warm up, strengthen and cool-down correctly – This will prevent injury and supply your muscles with oxygen allowing you to run more efficiently. Physio Ben says the best exercise to strengthen your shin is the single leg bent knee calf raise. Complete 8-12 reps x 3 and perform at a slow tempo.
• Strengthen your hips and core – These areas will make you a stronger runner and, in turn, will improve your foot strike and body mechanics.
Always remember that if pain persists, see your Doctor, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist or other health professional.
By Adriana Kalidis, National Fitness Coordinator, Anytime Fitness
Adriana brings over 15 years of experience to the fitness industry gained as both a personal trainer and manager specialising in rehabilitation, functional training and Olympic lifting. She is passionate about moving with purpose and has a background in martial arts and adventure sports such as snowboarding, rock climbing and trekking. Adriana is always looking for the next thrill to satisfy her hunger for adventure!